By participating in the Medium Refit with Life Certification (MRLC) project, the Indian Navy is able to lengthen the amount of time that its HDW- and Kilo-class submarines remain in service. Girish Linganna delves further into the reasons why the increased procurement of three Scorpene submarines was not a planned decision but rather a necessity.
There are a total of sixteen conventional submarines in service with the Indian Navy; seven of them are of the Kilo class, four are of the HDW class, and the remaining five are of the French Scorpene class. The Navy has been compelled to extend the service lives of the Kilo and HDW submarines as an interim expedient due to the delay in procuring new submarines as part of Project-75I. The objective of the Medium Refit with Life Certification (MRLC) project is to extend the amount of time that seven different submarines may continue to be used in the military. These submersibles are of the HDW class from Germany and the Kilo class from Russia. They were built in those respective countries.
After construction of a submarine is finished, MRLC can add ten to fifteen years to the vessel’s remaining operational life. As part of the MRLC routine, the hull of the submarine, as well as its machinery, weapons, and sensors, are all subjected to thorough inspections. In the event that there are any defects or indications of wear and tear, those components are either repaired or replaced, and the technology and equipment aboard the submarine are both brought up to date. In the end, it was able to implement the Submarine Life Recertification.
The Indian Ministry of Defence and the Mumbai-based Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) came to an agreement in July on the MRLC of the HDW-class submarine INS Shankush, and the contract was signed in July.
Since October of last year, the first HDW class submarine, the INS Shishumar, has been undergoing life extension work. It is anticipated that the work would be completed in August of this year. It is projected that the second submarine of the HDW class, which will be called the INS Shankush, will be ready for combat and will enter the active fleet in the year 2026 if the MRLC approach is followed.
While everything is going on, the fourth Kilo class submarine, which is slated for MRLC, is currently waiting for its transfer to Russia. This transport, which has been delayed due to a lack of transport facilities caused by the situation in Ukraine, is planned to take place soon. The situation in Ukraine has created the lack of transport facilities.
The Kilo-class INS Sindhukesari was the first submarine to complete the MRLC procedure. It was initially commissioned in 1989. At the same time that the life of the INS Sindhukirti was being extended and maintained at the Hindustan Shipyard Limited in Visakhapatnam, the INS Sindhuratna was on its way to Russia. Both of these processes were taking place simultaneously.
In the beginning of this year, the INS Sindhuratna was left stuck in Russia because to a shortage of passage, which prompted the Navy to consider sailing it to Norway and then transporting it to Mumbai onboard a sea-lift vessel when it reached in Norway. This was because there was no other option to get it to Mumbai. The submarine was out at sea for a total of 97 days and about 10,000 miles before it was able to make it to Mumbai on its own. During this time, it visited two different ports in France and Spain before finally arriving in Mumbai.
While MDL was responsible for the construction of all five Scorpene Class submarines in addition to the two HDW submarines, the Kilo Class submarines were purchased from Russia as ready-made units. It is anticipated that the sixth Scorpene Class submarine will be commissioned at some point during this year.
It has been decided that India will acquire three Scorpene submarines from France. Having said that, this contract is far from being fresh off the press. According to the information provided in the book titled “Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of the Indian Navy’s Submarine Arm,” the Indian Navy placed an order for six Scorpene SSK submarines in October of 2005 at a cost of Rs 12,022 crore. The contract stipulates that the Indian Navy will be given the opportunity in the not-too-distant future to make additional purchases of the same type of submarine, bringing the total number of potential vessels to a total of eight.
In the beginning, India proposed that France supply it with MBDA SM-39 Exocet anti-ship missiles for its HDW Sishumar Class submarines; but, France was cautious about placing them on the German craft. At first, the P-75 designation pertained to the fifth and sixth submarines of the Sishumar class that the Indian Navy intended to equip with Exocet missiles. These submarines were to be given the P-75 name. In spite of this, France was successful in convincing India to acquire an unproven Scorpene-type submarine design rather than the more established Shishumar Class variant.
It wasn’t a conscious decision, but the additional purchase of three Scorpene submarines ended up being necessary. The Indian Navy is in desperate need of additional submarines, but both of MDL’s production lines for submarines are currently idle because the final Scorpene from the initial purchase is being fitted out.
Because of the manufacturer’s objections to particular submarine tender specifications, the P-75I submarine tender has already been put on hold. If the government of India continues to put things off, the country’s previously difficult-to-acquire submarine capabilities would be lost, and India will be forced to begin the process all over again in future tenders.
Following the completion of the necessary maintenance and repairs, Russia proposed to India the possibility of purchasing three additional diesel-electric submarines of the same project from the Russian Navy and rehabilitating three diesel-electric submarines of the 877EKM project (codenamed “Halibut”) that were currently in service with the Indian Navy. On March 24, 2020, TASS revealed this information, citing a source within the military-industrial complex as their authority.